Case study

Senior paralegal — Nicole Hinson

Nicole completed a paralegal apprenticeship with Pinsent Masons Vario and the University of Law. She now works as a senior paralegal. Learn more about this route to qualification and Nicole's daily tasks  

Why did you decide on a career in law?

In my opinion, law is an intellectually challenging field of work. A career in the legal sector requires critical thinking and problem solving through the application of legal principles to real world scenarios.

On a day-to-day basis, my role requires a high degree of intellectual engagement, so I find it mentally stimulating and rewarding.

Why opt for a paralegal apprenticeship over other qualification routes?

Apprenticeships recognise that university is not the right path for everybody and offer an alternative route.

A paralegal apprenticeship offers the opportunity to 'earn while you learn', essentially gaining hands-on experience while you study, which in my view is an advantage over other qualification routes.

The practical experience I gained during the apprenticeship provided me with a greater understanding of the studies that I was simultaneously undertaking, as it enabled me to apply my learning to real life scenarios in the workplace, thereby helping to grow my confidence and further develop within my role.

Tell us about your apprenticeship

My apprenticeship took place over the course of two years. I worked in the London office at Pinsent Masons for four days a week and attended training at the University of Law one day a week.

My general day-to-day tasks as an apprentice paralegal consisted of undertaking legal research, drafting correspondence, creating and maintaining various trackers, assisting with collating bundles for court and attending meetings and/or court hearings to take notes.

As my experience grew, so did my level of responsibility, and I was eventually entrusted to take on my own client matters. My training, which was provided by Damar, consisted of lessons, coursework and exams in several areas of law, including client care skills, contract law, and civil litigation. I was then required to produce a portfolio of work at the end of the two years, which provided examples of the work that I had completed and set out how I had met the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives’ (CILEX) criteria to qualify as a paralegal.

What's a typical day like for a paralegal?

The paralegal role is highly diverse. The needs of my team and the clients are constantly changing, which provides a multitude of opportunities to get involved in different areas of work.

My role is heavily focused on case management, for example, drafting court documents, preparing materials, and dealing with logistic requirements for hearings and trials, creating and maintaining extranet sites and drafting client facing documents. However, depending on the needs of the team, other tasks may be required. For example, the creation and maintenance of trackers, attendance and taking notes at meetings and legal research.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy the diversity that the role presents. Through this, I have had the opportunity to build relationships internally with my colleagues, as well as externally. For example, over the past few years, I have formed relationships with counsel's clerks, judge's clerks and clients as a result of my work on active litigations.

What are the challenges?

The role can be stressful, particularly during hearings and trials given the level of work involved, the volume of documentation to prepare and the fast-paced nature of the environment.

What three skills are needed for a career as a paralegal?

  • Organisation - A paralegal's role is heavily focused on case management, so it's important to be organised to ensure the smooth running of your client matter. Being organised also contributes to good time management, by allowing you to complete tasks within given deadlines, which is vital in the legal sector.
  • Communication - Throughout the duration of a client matter, paralegals are responsible for coordinating meetings, arranging logistics and preparing bundles. Therefore, both written and oral communication skills are important to coordinate with a range of individuals like the internal team, the other side, counsel, and the clerks. It is also important to recognise and respond to different working styles in individuals and adopt the appropriate form of communication required.
  • The ability to work under pressure - Given that any role in the legal sector can be stressful, it is important for a paralegal to be able to cope well under pressure. A key skill for a paralegal is to take charge of the case management and organisation of the team during the trial period, to minimise the pressure the rest of the team are placed under. Such a skill ensures that the trial runs smoothly, and also puts the team at ease to work with a paralegal who is calm and collected.

What are your career ambitions?

I aspire to be a career paralegal. I would like to progress within my current role, and eventually, gain further paralegal qualifications.

Tell us about three issues affecting the legal sector today.

  • The economic challenges in the UK - As a result of various global events, such as COVID-19 and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, interest rates and the cost of living has increased in the UK. In turn, clients have become more conscious of costs and budgeting when selecting a law firm to instruct, which puts pressure on law firms to find ways to work more efficiently.
  • The rising threat of cybercriminals - Law firms are a key target for cybercriminals, given the substantial amount of money and personal information that they hold. Although most law firms will have measures in place to protect the company against cybercrime, the attacks and threats faced by law firms are becoming more sophisticated, especially given the rise in hybrid working leaving individuals more susceptible to cybercriminals' attacks. Therefore, it is an ongoing issue within the legal sector to put in place relevant measures to protect firms, and also ensure that staff undertake the required training.
  • The successful integration of technology within law firms - Given the recent advances in technology, law firms are presented with a multitude of opportunities to increase efficiency, encourage collaboration and improve the service offered to clients. However, the constant changes in technology present a challenge as law firms are required to keep up with competitors through the integration of more advanced technology. While it is possible to implement new technology in the legal sector, challenges are encountered when it comes to training staff and ensuring that new technology is being used correctly and efficiently.

What advice can you give to other aspiring paralegals?

Grab hold of any opportunity to gain as much experience as you can, but also be willing to train as you go. A paralegal's role is highly diverse, so you will come across new challenges every day that will give you opportunities to learn new skills. It is important to remember this during your career, and to be willing to overcome these challenges in order to progress further.

Find out more

How would you rate this page?

On a scale where 1 is dislike and 5 is like

success feedback

Thank you for rating the page